My Personal Struggle, Part 2
About the Guest
Is there any escape for a man entangled in sexual sin? Join us today on the broadcast when author Fred Stoeker talks about the transformation that took him from lusting after women to seeking after Christ.
Fred StoekerFred Stoeker is coauthor of the best-selling Every Man series. He is founder and chairman of Living True Ministries and a conference speaker who has counseled hundreds of men and married couples. Fred and his wife, Brenda, live in the Des Moines, Iowa, area with their four children.
Fred Stoeker talks about the transformation that took him from lusting after women to seeking after Christ.
My Personal Struggle, Part 2
Bob: For Fred Stoeker, the battle with pornography began in earnest once he had graduated from high school.
Fred: Once I went to college, and I had the freedom and the disposable income, so to say, to buy these things for myself, I memorized the dates of every magazine that I liked. I knew the exact day they would arrive at the drugstore, and that day I would be at the drugstore, say, on the 10th, and I would buy it immediately. And I knew the exact day, and I was always there that day, and I always had them the day they were out.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, August 15th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Is pornography a harmless self indulgence or a destructive sin?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the broadcast. This week, the subject we're looking at, Dennis, is one that we just want to alert parents. It may not be appropriate for younger listeners to be with us on these days because we're going to be talking candidly and, hopefully, appropriately about an issue that in the age of the Internet and cable TV has become mainstream. It's the issue of sexual sin in the life of men, and I think back to when you and I were growing up, and this was still kind of hidden away in seedy parts of town or if it was at the drugstore, it was back behind the counter. Today pornography is accessible mainstream and, as a result, we've got men who are being snared in serious sexual sin.
Dennis: You left one thing off the list that is probably lessening in its power because of the increase of the Internet, and that's movies. One of the things that I am so grateful for about the Internet, however, are some of these word searches you can do where you can get a movie preview of what's in the movie in terms of content; what type of sexual content, if any, is in the move; words that are used and, on more than one occasion, my sons would come in or, in some cases, my daughters would come in asking about going to a movie with friends, and I'd say, "Why don't you go to ScreenIt.com and just check out the movie and see what's in it, what words are used in it." And many times they'd never come back, because …
Bob: They know.
Dennis: In black and white you'd see it, and you know what really hit me about that? Is a lot of movies were being recommended by "Christian friends." And I believe if they would have seen a description before they went to that movie I think it might have tempered their recommendation of that move, if for no other reason than the fulfillment of this verse – Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 3 – "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality." Now, what is there that is unclear about that passage? Let me read it again – Paul says, "But among you" – that's to Christians – "there must not be" – those are single-syllable words – "there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality." Can that be said of us today?
We learned on yesterday's broadcast that it can have a generational impact, and Fred Stoeker really gave us a living illustration of that. Fred, I want to welcome you back to the broadcast.
Fred: It's good to be here again.
Dennis: Fred has written a book called "Every Man's Battle." It's subtitled "Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time," and we closed the broadcast yesterday by asking Fred when the last time he looked at anything, and he's been clean for 10 years. That history and track record of being clean of that sin gives you the platform from which to minister to a lot of men.
In fact, Psalm 101 says, "Who is it who will minister to me? It is he who walks in his house in integrity." And I want to applaud that in your life. Yesterday you shared with us how your own track record of pornography and sexual addiction – well, really, was a part of your life through most of – what – your 21st, 22nd year of life?
Fred: Actually, all the way until I was 23.
Bob: Yes, you had been exposed to pornographic magazines that your dad had in your home, growing up, and it had really been a part of your life. You'd been sexually active through high school and into college. You were purchasing your own pornography by the time you were in college. You were on the path to be a part of the "Playboy" generation – one of these young men who kind of enjoys life. You were hedonist.
Fred: Oh, I definitely was. I wasn't just on the path, I was king.
Bob: You were there.
Dennis: Would you describe yourself, then, as having a sexual addiction?
Fred: No, not given what I know now as to how they define sexual addiction. Patrick Carnes was the father of this sexual addiction writing, and his first level includes things like homosexuality, prostitution, that sort of thing. So once you get to the first level of addiction, you're already into some of these very, what I consider, heavy, heinous sins. Well, I wasn't into prostitution, I wasn't into some of these other areas that he defines. So I guess from a standpoint of the actual definition by the experts, I wasn't. But in terms of life, yes, I was addicted. I could not stop. There was nothing that was going to make me stop.
Bob: So this was a part of your life all through high school, all through college, and I, again, there had to be some points where you thought to yourself, "Is this right? Is this okay for me to be doing this?"
Dennis: You know, for a person who has grown up in a home where there is a clear standard, you would expect that to be the case. Where you grew up, Fred, there wasn't a clear standard. Your dad had it stashed underneath the bed. He had wanted to expose you to a prostitute at age 14. I'm kind of wondering where would be the point of conscience in your life at that point?
Fred: The point of conscience would only come in terms of how it was affecting my mom. Personally, I didn't really see that it was wrong.
Bob: God used a sunset in your life to wake you up.
Fred: Yes, I was in my office. At this time, I was a 23-year-old stockbroker out in Palo Alto, California, and I was in my office one night; everyone else had left, and I decided I'm going to watch the sunset and then head home. It was late, and I had been making some extra calls, and I put my feet up on the credenza and put my hands behind my head, looked out the window, and was just enjoying the sunset when suddenly, for no apparent reason, it was revelation. I suddenly saw what I had become, and I hated what I saw. I started to cry, and I could not believe that I had all these girlfriends and how despicable – and I hadn't really seen it up until then but, all of a sudden, it just was very clear in my mind.
Dennis: What did you see at that point?
Fred: I just saw how awful I had become in terms of how I treated women, in terms of my integrity, and I could not stand what I saw. And I remember praying just a simple prayer – I barely knew how. I mean, I'd prayed some in my life, but I simply said, "Lord, if you're ready to work with me, I'm ready to work with you." And I remember standing straight up and walking out that door. I really didn't know what I had done.
Dennis: Do you believe you had an encounter with God at that point, looking at that sunset?
Fred: Absolutely, that could have come from no one else. The revelation was so real, and it was so putrefying. I was staggered by it.
Dennis: What happened a couple of weeks later?
Fred: Well, within a few weeks I had a job back in Iowa. It just seemed like all heaven moved in my life, and I was back home with no girlfriends and able to start a new life.
Bob: Did you tie all of this together?
Bob: You had this experience with the Lord; He brings you face-to-face with your sin. Did you continue to keep your schedule at the drugstore and go down and buy the next magazine when it came out?
Fred: Oh, no, no. Not like that. I did continue with pornography once I got back to Iowa, but it was nothing to that same extent. I didn't understand how this related to God, okay? And so on the way home I felt that repugnance, but I kind of fought through the repugnance for a while, because I thought, "Well, this is just strange." I didn't understand what was going on.
But eventually I began – as I began going to church and as God began to sanctify my heart, I was able to begin to see this and drop away from the pornography itself.
Dennis: Did the morality side of your dating and relating to the opposite sex change immediately or was that a process?
Fred: Almost immediately. I did have one attempt – a date with a girl I had known from years ago, and it went very badly, and any kind of relationship physically – it was very bad. I could tell – I mean – the Holy Spirit had begun to put guilt into my heart, and I began to see it as wrong, all of a sudden, and it just didn't work.
Dennis: Were you reading the Scriptures? Where did the guilt come from? Just a few moments ago we're talking about a home you grew up out of where you felt no guilt, no shame.
Fred: The Holy Spirit was now in my heart, and the guilt came from Him living there and letting me know what's right and wrong.
Dennis: How long, then, before you met Brenda?
Fred: Well, the Lord gave me a year off from women so I could learn about them, and then at the end of that time – about a year into the going to church and reading the Bible – I actually went to a marriage class to learn about women. I knew when I became a Christian, "Where am I supposed to go for Sunday school?" And I chose a marriage class because I knew the biggest problem in my life was I didn't know how to treat women, and I figured I'd learn how to do it there.
God was able to clean me up enough so that when I met Brenda, I was somewhat prepared to handle a woman of her purity, a woman of her kindness.
Dennis: You said you had a year off. What do you mean by that?
Fred: What it means is that I did not seek women, I did not seek dating, I simply decided to seek God during that time.
Dennis: You know, I've got to stop you at that point because there are some single men who listen to our broadcast who are on a search, and they just want to be married in the worst way, and the thing they need to hear is what you just said – not all of them but some of them – they need to become God's man. They need to get to know Him.
Fred: Yes, it was the best thing I ever did, and I didn't even know what I was doing, but I needed to have a time where I could learn who God was, what His standards are, and to make sure that when the time did come where He introduced me to a woman, I would be ready. And, of course, He did do that very thing.
Bob: I love what I heard Tommy Nelson say one time when he said to young people, singles, who want to get married. He said, "If you want to get married, you want to meet the right person," he said, "You run as hard and as fast toward Jesus as you can, and if you see somebody running alongside you, take a second look." But that's the issue – too many singles have got their focus on the wrong thing not on serving Christ. Their focus is on who is out here, and I thought Tommy's admonition was great, and that's what the Lord had you doing in that time.
But, I've got to stop you, because there are folks listening who are going, "Well, I've had this struggle with pornography, with sexual issues in my life, and I came to faith in Christ, but it didn't go away for me."
Fred: That's true. I've heard that from many men as well, and it's true. It didn't go entirely away. I still had some pornography in my life. I still was weak, and then there were the broader range of pornographic things that we see all the time. I had no problem with R-rated movies, I had no problem with looking at the lingerie ads and the swimsuit issues and all those things, so it kind of depends on where you are on the line.
Bob: So you kind of pulled back into middle-American life which, at this point, is tolerant of a certain level of sexual immorality.
Dennis: Even middle-America Christian life, unfortunately, Bob.
Bob: I've got to tell you a story here, because I think it applies. Brian Chapel, who was a guest on our broadcast, shared about his son, having gone to see the movie, "Titanic." And there was a scene in that movie that was inappropriate, and his son walked out. His son was sharing that with some friends who told him they thought he overreacted to that.
Bob: Christian friends?
Bob: Yeah, these were Christian friends, and they said, "That movie has a redemptive message to it," and they thought you overreacted. And Brian Chapel said he was astounded, and he was talking about Titus, chapter 3, I think it is, Dennis, where Paul says that "the grace of God has come, and it teaches us to say no to all kinds of ungodliness." He said, "I wonder if today we know what ungodliness mean or looks like."
We have come to a point where we would say, "Well, that's probably okay. As long as you're mature, you can probably handle that."
Fred: I had a friend that came over to our house one day. It was just after "Forrest Gump" came out. We rented that movie because we had heard so much from our Christian friends about how great it was, and I made a commitment with Brenda we'd watch it together. I said, "Look, if anything comes up that we're not expecting, I'll bury my head in the pillow, and you just tell me when it's over," okay? And this is the only movie that I've remotely gotten close to seeing something that I shouldn't see, and the problem is with that movie that there are scenes early in the movie where she's having sex in order to get her kid into a school, and then there's some nudity in the movie.
And what happened after that is I had a friend come by, and he said, "Boy, have you seen the movie, 'Forrest Gump,' it is so great?" And I said, "No, I really don't want to bring that into my home. I really don't want to show that to my kids," and I related to him the three instances where I thought it was bad to have the nudity and all that, and he just stood there and stared at me, stunned. He said, "You know, I've watched so many movies for so long that I didn't even notice that those were in there." And it was then that I again realized, "Wow, we could really get ourselves in a position if we don't say no to get stuck and not even understand where we're at."
Dennis: I think that leads us to a good pair of questions for our listeners today, whether single or married, whether you're a parent or maybe a grandparent. First of all, what are your standards, and I can almost hear the outcry, Bob. Can you hear it? It's one word – "legalism, legalism."
Now, legalism is not finding the life of Christ in your soul. It's just embracing do's and don't's and doesn't walk with the King of kings and Lord of lords. I'm going to promise you, if you walk with Him, there will be some boundaries in your life. There are going to be some things that you do not do.
Bob: The grace of God will teach you to say no to ungodliness.
Dennis: That's right. And if you don't have some boundaries, then, more than likely, you're stepping off into the gray area just like you were talking about, Fred. You're dabbling in things that you ought not to be messing around with.
A second question I would have is for parents, maybe grandparents, too. That's a new assignment I've been given recently, so I'm kind of into asking grandparents this question – what boundaries are you training your children to embrace? Fred, what about you? Let's apply this to your life. You've worked on this a great deal.
Bob: You've got a 17-year-old son who is saying, "Dad, can I go see" whatever, right?
Fred: Actually, he's been trained so well that he doesn't ask that question. My son is a very pure young man. He's 17, he's about six-three, and a strapping, handsome kid, but I've trained him early the dangers of pornography, the dangers of sexual sin, and he's a boy that he doesn't question it. He's accepted what I said, he's seen my life, he's seen how God has moved in our lives since I've cleaned myself up and he – now we're in a situation where generational sin has been stopped. Where, you know, before, every boy in the family tree was going to be stuck. But now it appears, anyway, that there has been a breaking, and he had the experience of finding – you know, his friends brought pornography to school, and he walked away. He's had the experience of – as you mentioned before, he'll be watching a show on TV, a scene will come up, he'll walk out of the room. And he's very concerned about it.
Bob: And it's because you've been right there alongside him warning him?
Fred: Well, it's the same situation it was with my dad. When my dad, all the way along, was exhibiting one form of behavior, and I kind of followed right on through. Now I'm exhibiting the opposite behavior, and my son is following right on through.
Dennis: Yeah, I believe it was Albert Einstein who said, "Modeling is not the main means of influencing another, it's the only means of influencing another." And I think we underestimate the power of our lives as these little radar units called children and grandchildren peer up and watch every choice, take a look at our eye movement and what we look at and what we pay attention to. We are in need of recognizing our responsibility to be imitators of God.
Bob: And there was a point, Dennis, in Fred's life where God revealed to him the wickedness of his behavior, and there may be some folks listening to the broadcast today who, in hearing Fred's story, God's opened their heart to the wickedness of their own behavior, and they need to do what Fred did.
Dennis: Stand up and pray.
Dennis: Or kneel and pray.
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: But pray and say, "Lord, I want things to be different." And you know what? Just as Fred prayed a very simple prayer – it wasn't an eloquent prayer, was it, Fred?
Fred: No, very simple.
Dennis: A very simple prayer. I think God meets us at that point. You don't have to be trained in some seminary to know how to pray. God stands ready on His throne to reach down and begin to clean us up.
Bob: And then when you have prayed, you need to do what Fred did, and that is begin to saturate your mind with the Scripture. Get God's Word in your heart, get into a good Bible-teaching church, if you're not there already, so that you can hear God's Word being taught on a regular basis. Take advantage of resources that are available that can help you renew your mind along these lines.
One of those resources is the book Fred has written called "Every Man's Battle," and I particularly like the last half of this book where, Fred, you talk specifically about what a man can do to win victory over our eyes, our minds, over our hearts, in this area. We've got the book available in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com. In the center of the home page, you will see a red button that says "Go," and if you click that button it will take you to the place on our website where you can get more information about Fred's book. You can order it online, if you'd like. There are other resources that are listed there as well including a great book by our friend, Joshua Harris. His book is called "Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is," and the subtitle is "Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World," and I think that describes the situation perfectly. And Joshua's book gets right to the heart of the issue and helps us see what's going on in our hearts that drives us in this area.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red "Go" button in the middle of the home page, and you'll go right to the page where you can get more information about these books and other resources. If you are interested in getting both Fred's book, "Every Man's Battle," and Josh Harris's book, "Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is," we can send along at no additional cost the CD audio of our conversation this week with Fred Stoeker, and you can either listen to it again or pass it along to someone who would benefit from hearing these programs or, as I mentioned earlier this week, you can do what I've done, and that is go on a long trip with one of your sons and together listen to Fred's story and begin to talk about the reality of the challenge that is before us as men.
The website again is FamilyLife.com. You can also call 1-800-FLTODAY to request more information. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. You can place your order over the phone, and we'll get these resources out to you as quickly as we can.
Well, I know for many of us these are the last days of summer, and school is just around the corner. Here at FamilyLife, these are the last days of our fiscal year, and a new fiscal year is just around the corner, and we find ourselves here with a few weeks to go in August, about 18 percent behind our budget number from where we had hoped to be at this point in time with donations to our ministry. And so we wanted to come to our listeners and ask you to do a couple of things if you can during the month of August.
First of all, we want you to consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Now, we don't want you to do anything that would take away your giving to your local church. We believe that ought to be your top giving priority. But if you are able to help with a donation of any amount during the month of August, $25, $50, whatever you are able to do to help us out, we would really appreciate it.
And there is a second thing we'd like to ask you to do, and that is when you make a donation issue a challenge. We've had other listeners who have already contacted us to make a donation to FamilyLife Today, and they have said, "I not only want to make a donation, but I want to challenge singles to donate and help the ministry during August." Mothers-in-law – we had a challenge come in from a woman who is a mother-in-law, and she said "I want to challenge other mothers-in-law to make a donation to FamilyLife Today." And we've heard from a listener in Maryland who said, "We have adopted a child from Korea, and I'd like to challenge other parents who have adopted children to donate to the ministry of FamilyLife Today."
So would you consider, first of all, making a donation and then, secondly, making a challenge this month to try to help us get closer to that year-end goal and meet our budget during this fiscal year. If you can do that, go online at FamilyLife.com. When you click on the "Make a Donation" form and start filling it out, you'll see a "Comments" box, and you can type in your challenge in the "Comments" box, or call 1-800-FLTODAY. That's 1-800-358-6329. You can make a donation over the phone, and when you make your donation just mention what your challenge is, and they'll pass that word along, and we'll challenge other listeners to join with you in helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. And let me say thanks in advance for considering a donation to our ministry. We appreciate your partnership with us.
You know, it's one thing for a man to make a decision that he wants to turn from his sin, and we've talked today about the sin of lust and pornography. But what you do after you've made that decision is very important, and tomorrow we're going to talk about what you did, Fred, as you made the decision to abandon pornography, about the proactive steps you started to take as a discipline to be free from this issue, and I hope our listeners can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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