Category Archives: Sex

Protecting Your Family (& Yourself) From Pornography

First, some stats.  In 1970, pornography was a $10 million a year business in this country – a small, back-alley, unseen industry.  Since the “mainstreaming” of pornography in the 1970s and the invention of the internet, pornography has grown into a $57 billion worldwide industry (larger than the revenue of every pro baseball, football, and basketball team combined).  What was once difficult (if not impossible) to find has now become accessible to anyone with an internet connection and the education of a 2nd grader.  I was born in 1979 and came of age in the era of the internet – the first generation in history to have unfiltered, immediate, private access to any and every kind of pornography available simply at the click of a mouse.  And because we knew more about the computer than our parents, we had no problems hiding our pornography use from those who were supposed to guard us from it.  This combination of factors has led to a large number of people (men and women) who have grown from teenagers into adults addicted to online pornography.  If not for some godly accountability partners in college and a wife who lovingly helps me protect my eyes, I could have easily have fallen into this category.

Now, we are coming to terms with the consequences of the porn epidemic in America.  Marriages are falling apart at record levels because of pornography and porn-related causes.  Children are being exposed to pornography at earlier and earlier ages at their own homes or at the homes of their friends.  New studies are showing that husbands are putting unreasonable sexual expectations on their wives based on their use of pornography.  And wives are feeling more and more insecure about their bodies and their sexual intimacy with their husbands.  A recent study showed that up to one in three college men are now reporting erectile dysfunction, largely due to their overuse of pornography.  A 2006 survey found that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women were addicted to pornography.  This survey was of Christian men and women, not the culture at large.  I don’t think I need to go on.  You can see the clear evidence: we have a crisis of pornography use in our country and in our churches.

In addition to these scary stats, we have many people who are simply oblivious to the dangers that lurk behind every screen in their house.  Our world is becoming more and more connected every year.  We are no longer a one-computer-per-house nation, getting online through AOL dial-up on a 14.4k modem.  Every home has multiple computers and multiple mobile devices – smartphones and tablet computers and DVD-players connected to the web.  Let me be as blunt as possible: every internet enabled device in your home is a portal for pornography producers to bring their content into your home.  Remember, their motive is primarily financial.  And every new porn addict is good for their business.  And every child you are raising in your home is a potential new consumer.

I don’t mean to scare you, but I do mean to wake you up.  This stuff is not going away.  And the Christian community must make war with this sin.  This can no longer be the issue we only talk about a Men’s Retreats or in private conversations.  We have to get serious, focused, and vocal about keeping pornography away from our families and out of our personal lives.  Obviously, the most important thing you can do to keep your kids from pornography is to preach the gospel to them so that they have the power of the Risen Christ in their lives to draw on.  But beyond that, you must model for them the patterns and the boundaries that will help them have a healthy sexual future.

Let’s talk specifics.  How can you protect your family (and yourself) from pornography?

FIRST, I would recommend that you have open and honest conversations with your kids about the dangers that exist on the internet.  As I have said many times on this blog, start the conversation.  Be Proactive!  Tell your kids that there are inappropriate sexual images and videos on the internet that they should be on-guard to stay away from.  If they are at a friends’ house and they offer to show them something “cool” on the internet, tell them how to walk away, how to leave, how to guard their eyes.  Share with them the temptations that await and where they can lead.

SECOND, protect your home network.  As a first level of protection (not comprehensive), you should have OpenDNS (or something similar) on your router at your home.  Your hi-speed internet connection most likely goes from the DSL or Cable-modem to a wireless router than then sends the internet all over your house.  OpenDNS provides a free FamilyShield that you can easily set up with your spouse on your home router.  The set-up is simple and easy.  If you are a man and struggle with porn yourself, set up these shield on your router and have your wife set up the password on the router so you can’t change the settings.  This step will at least give you a first line of defense on your home network.

THIRD, protect your devices.  You and your family are obviously NOT going to ONLY access the internet at your house.  You will also be taking your computers on the road – to hotels, coffee-shops, libraries, offices, schools, etc.  And every place you go has the internet.  So how do you protect your devices?  There are several good options.  I would recommend you use K9 Web Protection.  They provide an excellent product that, again, is free.  You simply register for a license to use their software on your computer and they email you a code.  From there, you download the software and install it with the code.  During setup, they ask you to set up an administrative password.  Again, if you struggle with porn, ask your spouse to set up this password for you.  Once installed, this software tracks your every online move and blocks every inappropriate site.  K9 also has a mobile version for the iPhone.  Protecting your smartphone can be more difficult, but it is possible.  You need to disable your Safari browser & set up the filtered browser as your only access to the internet.  They give you detailed instructions on how to do this on their website.

K9 Web Protection is not the only option here, but they are one of the best and they are free.  Other good options include Mobicip, which is not free, but includes some other reporting options and an Android version if you have that operating system on your smartphone.  My point is simple – you have good options out there.  Use them.

Barie and I have used x3 Watch for accountability online for a long time.  But with our oldest son now learning how to search the internet on his own, accountability is not enough.  We need to keep pornography away.  Away from us and away from our kids.

Men and women, I pray that you will not ignore this post.  Take action.  Have the hard conversations.  Get on the same page with your spouse.  Surrender this issue to God.  Help each other to stay pure and to keep this pandemic from destroying your soul and your family.

2015 Update:  We have started using Accountable2You software at our house because it works across all platforms and for a small fee you can add as many devices as you want.  Check into it!

Talking to Your Kids About Sex

Nothing causes your heart to race quite like starting the conversation with your children about sex.  I had the joy of explaining the “birds and the bees” to my eight year-old son, Kade, a few months ago using a set of books from NavPress called God’s Design for Sex.  The first book in the series is called The Story of Me and explains the order of marriage, pregnancy, and birth.  It also explains the basic differences between male and female anatomy.  NavPress markets the book for ages 3 to 5, and I have read it with all four of my kids (ages 3 to 8) and not felt embarrassed.  It uses the technical terms for body parts, but since we have used those words with our kids from the beginning, they don’t find it awkward.

The second book in the series (pictured here) is called Before I Was Born and explains the actual process of conception.  In other words, it describes the narrative of marriage and sexual intercourse in more detail that book 1.  NavPress markets this book for ages 5 to 8, though I have to be honest, I have not read it with my five or six year-old sons.  I just read it to Kade.  I think reading it and discussing it with an eight year-old is appropriate.  But that is only our judgment call as parents.  Every parent is different and will want to start the conversation at a different time.  I just want to share that my experience with this book was great.  Kade and I read it together.  The artwork was tasteful and the explanation was helpful.  Kade asked me questions for 30 minutes after we finished reading this book together (many of which were hilarious).  He then went to his room and read the book to himself.  Afterwards, he came out and asked me questions for another 15 minutes.

I share this experience on my blog to encourage all of you who are parents to have the “sex” conversation early with your children.  They are growing up in a world full of confusion when it comes to sexuality.  If they don’t hear about biblical sexuality from their parents, they are not going to hear about it.  I have been encouraged by other parents to make sure that I am the one who starts the conversation with my children.  The reason this is important is because the one who first talks to their children about sex will be the one that the child comes to with questions about sex in the future.  In other words, if your child first hears about sex from their peers, they will then ask their peers for help when they are confused.  This leads to the blind leading the blind.  The foolish helping the foolish.

Instead, we need to be courageous as parents and start the conversation.  Don’t wait for your child to ask you.  Then you will only be reacting to their leadership.  Take up your role as the primary discipler of your child and teach them what God’s Word says about sex – that it is a beautiful and enjoyable gift from God designed to be used inside the bounds of marriage.  Your child will thank you later that you didn’t make it awkward or weird.  Instead, you gave them God’s wisdom and taught them that it is normal for kids to talk to their parents about sex.

One final note to dads: don’t make your wife have this conversation with your sons.  Man up, get over your fears, and train up your kids.

Questions About Sex

We had a great Sunday yesterday at church.  We usually have less people in attendance over Memorial Day weekend because so many families are traveling, but we were up yesterday – most likely because we were covering the tough topic of sex.  It seems everyone could use some help in maturing in this area of our lives.  Here are some of the many text messages that came in after I preached yesterday and my best attempt at a quick answer…

1) Will we be condemned before God if we have had sex before marriage? Sex outside of marriage is the same as every other sin in God’s economy, meaning that it does bring condemnation and death, but not any more than stealing or lying or gossiping does.  Sin is sin, and the grace of God poured out in the blood of Jesus Christ covers all sin.  Sexual sin is unique (as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:18) in some of its consequences in our own lives, but it is not unique in its consequence for our relationship with God.  When we trust Jesus as Savior, He saves us from all sin – sexual sin included.  As I said Sunday, sometime the most difficult part of moving beyond our sexual past is forgiving ourselves – in other words, believing that God’s forgiveness is real.  Be encouraged – His forgiveness covers all our sin.

2) Does it cause men to struggle with purity when ladies in their life dress immodestly? The short answer is yes.  The Bible speaks to how women dress in multiple places because women can use their physical beauty as a source of trust (an idol) that they can use to manipulate men and get what they want in life.  Men are attracted to women by sight, and since women are not attracted to men by sight (as much), they can fail to understand and appreciate how their dress can impact men.  All this being said, men cannot wait for all women to begin to dress modestly to have a mental life of purity.  Even if most of the women in our lives dress modestly, there will still be women around us (at the store, the bank, at work) who don’t, and we have to develop the discipline of not lusting over those women.

3) Is adultery the only free pass to unforgiveness and divorce? Jesus said that divorce was acceptable in situations where adultery had been committed, but He didn’t say it was best or even desirable.  Divorce never fixes the situation – it simply changes the difficulties that you are dealing with.  I believe that couples can reconcile even after adultery occurs if repentance is sincere and life-change occurs.  Also, everyone needs to recognize that adultery is not a free pass to unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness is deadly to the person holding on the pain and hurt and bitterness, not the person who has hurt us.  Regardless of what someone has done to us (even including adultery), we cannot live with unforgiveness in our hearts.  We must forgive by the power of the Spirit in us.

4) What if you try to confess and talk about your past with your spouse but they don’t want to hear it? This is a great question, and actually, a very common one.  Because most of us bring sexual issues with us into our marriage relationship, we have to be wise about how we handle our past.  In my personal opinion, we need to confess in broad terms what we have done and/or experienced that will impact our sexual relationship in marriage.  However, I don’t think we need to confess every detail of everything we’ve ever done sexually.  That would be unnecessary and painful to our spouse.  Our spouse does need to know if we’ve been sexually active or if we have struggled with pornography addiction, etc., but they don’t need to know that on October 4, 1998, I went out with this person and we made out at the movies.  It is pointless to go into that much detail unless there is something in a specific experience (where sexual abuse or date rape, etc.) that continues to cause you pain and hurt in your sexual relationship with your spouse.

5) What is God’s view on homosexuality?  Does God love his gay children as well or are they going to hell? I am really thankful to be able to attempt an answer to this question.  I know that this is a difficult question for many people either because of their own sexual struggles or because of friends and family who have shared that they are gay.  First, we need to recognize that all people are created in the image of God and given significance and worth and value by God.  Rather than label people based on their sexual desires or orientation, we need to label all people as just people first.  I am not a straight man first.  I am just a man, created and loved by God.  Second, we need to apologize for all the terrible things that people in our tribe have said toward homosexual people.  We have many stupid, unloving people in our tribe who have held signs that have said terrible things like “God hates fags.”  I hope and pray for the day that homosexual men and women can forgive us for that and take a new look at Jesus Christ.  Finally, we need to confess that the Bible does say that homosexual activity is outside the will and plan of God.  The Bible doesn’t condemn homosexual desire, just like it doesn’t condemn heterosexual desire.  The question is what we do with that desire.  If we use our heterosexual desire inside of marriage, then we are honoring God with it.  If we use our heterosexual desire outside of marriage, then we are not honoring God with it.  If someone has homosexual desire, then they are challenged by Scripture to live a celibate life in order to honor God with their desires.  I understand that this is difficult, but all men and women are challenged to submit their sexual desire under the lordship of Jesus, and as best as I can understand Scripture, this is what it means for men and women with homosexual desire.

6) Finally, what can we say about David and the OT kings who had all those wives?  Is God okay with multiples wives? Another great question!  From the very beginning of the Bible (Genesis 2), God set up marriage to be between one woman and one man for life.  When Jesus and Paul speak to the issue of marriage, they go back to Genesis 2 to show that God’s design and intention for marriage has never changed.  Within this bigger biblical narrative, we can see that David and the other OT kings were outside of God’s plan by taking on multiple wives.  In fact, the Scriptures never glorify what they did or tell us to follow their example.  Rather, the text tells us that it was their multiple wives that led their hearts astray from the heart of God.  As they added wives from different lands who worshiped different gods, they brought idols into their homes, and their allegiance to their many wives eventually led them astray spiritually.  Instead of exalting what they did, the Bible tells that what they did was foolish and did great damage to them personally and the nation of Israel.

Letters Topic #2: Sex

As we continue in our Letters series this Sunday, we are going to speak to the issue of sexual purity.  As we continue to address challenges to our spiritual maturity, we must confront the ongoing temptation that comes from sexual sin.  There are many ways to talk about this issue, but as I have prepared for Sunday morning, let me surface three reasons that I believe everyone needs good teaching and helpful accountability to make progress in our personal purity.

First, our culture presents conflicting messages about sexuality because individuals are conflicted about their own sexuality. Without a biblical worldview to give us some kind of standards with regards to sex, we have to figure out our own boundaries with sex.  Very few people believe that all kinds of sex are okay, but no one seems to agree about where the healthy boundaries exist or even should exist.  Add this cultural confusion to the fact that all teens are confused about their sexuality (remember how you felt when your sexual desires first started to blossom?) and we have a recipe for disaster.  On top of this, many parents feel like they are handicapped to speak clearly and with conviction to their children about sex because of the way they have handled their own sexuality.  Simply put: we need to be able to think clearly about sexuality and have some kind of objective authority to establish healthy boundaries.

Second, sexual sin is unique in its impact. The apostle Paul says something to this effect in 1 Corinthians 6:18 when he separates sexual sin from other forms of sin.  While all sin offends God and brings distance in our relationship with Him, sexual sin is unique in its impact on the human soul and the human body.  Much has been written about the impact of promiscuous sexual activity on the body (disease, pregnancy, etc.), but little has been written about the impact of sexual sin on the soul.  This is the main focus of the Bible – we cannot separate our bodies from our souls and think that what we do with our bodies has no impact on our souls – it absolutely does.  In fact, the Bible gives us a very high view of sex – saying that it has the power to bring two people together and make them one new flesh.  When the Bible talks about this, it is speaking beyond the physical union to the spiritual union that occurs.  We must be careful that we don’t abuse the gift of sex in our lives because it impacts our souls, not just our bodies.

Finally, sexual desire is powerful. Everyone knows this, and yet (like the money discussion last week) so few of us get honest with other people about our sexual desires and struggles with sexual temptation.  Why is this so?  I think very few of us (especially men) want to admit that our sexual desires are as strong as they are or that we struggle with knowing what to do with them.  Every time men share about sexual temptation, there is immediate compassion and connection over the issue because all men can relate.  Yet, it seems like those conversations are slow to occur.  Additionally, I think it is important for women to talk openly about their struggles with sexuality and sexual sin.  Just because men are more likely to be aroused by sight does not mean that women are free from the temptation to abuse the gift of their sexuality.  If we are not careful, we will assume that we have our sexual desires mastered only to find ourselves giving in to sexual temptation once again.  Sexual activity is pleasurable, and the human desire to be sexually active is strong.  As we get honest, we can more adequately deal with the truth.

I’m excited to preach on this important topic this Sunday.  Let me know if you have any questions or comments ahead of Sunday’s sermon.

Abstinence Education

As a former youth pastor who has spent a lot of time teaching students about sexuality, I was very interested in this Austin Statesman article on Sunday about districts moving away from abstinence-only sex education. If you didn’t know, there has been a long debate in public education about how to each kids about sex. The “consensus” professional view has shifted over the years, and now another shift seems to be taking place. The recent history goes something like this…

The last decade has seen a large increase in federal funding for abstinence-only sex education in the public schools. This has spawned a large number of non-profit organizations that specialize in teaching students to wait for marriage before they become sexually active. These non-profits get large amounts of federal funding and then are contracted by school districts to come in and do their sex-education. All well and good except that now federal money is moving away from abstinence-only education because of recent research showing that it is not working – in other words, more kids are having unprotected sex resulting in higher pregnancy rates and higher STD transmission rates. The education establishment is now wondering if abstinence-plus sex education would reverse these trends. In other words, if educators still tell students that waiting is the best option, but also teach them how to use condoms and more details about STDs, would we see these trends go the other direction?

The Statesman article is very good, with lots of charts and graphs to help illustrate the data that public officials are wrestling with. I’m not sold on all their conclusions, but they do raise a great question that the Christian community should think about. For the sake of argument, let’s agree with the following presuppositions (I’m not saying that I do) and see where we land. When abstinence-only education is compared to abstinence-plus education, we find that abstinence-only education helps the average student wait an additional year before beginning their sexual activity, but also increase pregnancy rates and STD rates by 10%, how should we move forward? In other words, if the average student begins sexual activity at 17 instead of 16 and yet more teen girls get pregnant or more students get STDs, what policy should school districts have when it comes to sex-education? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

A few of mine (that won’t necessarily clear this up):

1) Kids should learn about sex at home. We shouldn’t depend on the school district to teach our kids about sex. Parents need to be more open with their kids and kids more open with their parents so that sex is not off-limits at home. I think kids make stupid decisions with sex when they get bad information from peers and they are not prepared for the temptations that come as a teenager. Parents, let’s make sure to help our kids through this with gospel-grace and brutal honesty. We can’t pass this off on a school-administrator.

2) God desires our best – saving sex for marriage. As a society, we need to keep in mind that sexuality is not just about pregnancy and disease. These are obviously huge issues, but sex is ultimately about God. He created it and His intent is that we enjoy it within the boundaries that will give it the most meaning and beauty and keep us from the most pain. I’ve talked with plenty of students over the years who have been destroyed by sexual activity, but not because they were pregnant or had a STD. They had given themselves away to someone else and connected too intimately with them. As many have said before, “you can’t put a condom on your heart.”

3) God desires the best for kids. What complicates this discussion for me is that God desires the best for children – a consistent theme that shows up throughout the Bible. In fact, I’m preaching a passage this Sunday that reminds us that Jesus welcomes children to Himself even when no one else does. My point is that we have to think holistically about this issue. If abstinence-only education results in more abortions or more kids born into and raised in poverty, we need to think hard before we rubber-stamp it as they only way.

Any insight on this one?